On this page, I'll share my thoughts, and any articles or information I think are of interest. Feel free to use the comments section to join in the discussion!
"If you are looking at a good player, there’s about one-third of a chance he was drafted out of high school and another one-third chance he attended a four-year college."
by Carson Cistulli - March 4, 2015
Recently, Jeff Sullivan wrote a piece here attempting to answer a question notable both for its simplicity and importance. The question: how many good players were good prospects?
As Sullivan notes, one typically finds the question pursued in reverse: of this or that group of prospects (top-10 prospects, top-100 prospects, etc), how did they fare in the major leagues (if they even made it that far)? There’s great utility in this sort of information — in particular where our understanding of prospect valuations is concerned. An appearance by a young player on one of these prospect lists tends to indicate, if not certain future value, at least present trade value. In other words: even those prospects who fail to record even one plate appearance or innings — even they are capable of possessing significant value.
Not every good player was a good prospect, though. In fact, as Sullivan found, about a third of good players weren’t good prospects — or, at least, about a third of them never appeared on Baseball America’s annual top-100 prospect list. They weren’t exclusively all non-prospects, of course, but a sufficient enough percentage of those top-100 prospects fail such that, for a rookie-eligible player to expressly not appear among that group immediately renders his chances of succeeding in the majors pretty low.
The purpose of this post (and two others to follow) is similar to Sullivan’s — insofar, that is, as it’s intended to provide some objective demographic data regarding those players who’ve become good major leaguers. Here, instead of examining which players did or didn’t appear among BA’s top-100 lists, however, what I’ve done is to look at data regarding the amateur origins of good players — in the case of this post by their final amateur status (college player, prep player, etc.). Tomorrow, I’ll also consider good players by their draft round (in the event that they were drafted) and also by college conference (for those players who attended college obviously).
I’ve used a similar methodology as Sullivan did in terms of defining certain terms. A “good” player is any one who produced 3.0 WAR or greater in a particular season. For pitcher WAR I’ve used a 50-50 split between the FIP and runs-allowed iterations of WAR. Where Sullivan used three years’ worth of data, I’ve used five, hoping that the larger sample might be of some benefit.
Also with a view to creating a larger sample, note that I’ve used player-seasons and not merely individual players. So, for example, Dustin Pedroia produced five “good” seasons between 2010 and -14. Therefore, he’s counted five times. I was originally concerned that the difference in results might be dramatic between player-seasons and mere players. In fact, the relationship is rather regular: among batters and pitchers, among college and prep players, the average good player produced nearly (but not quite) two good seasons.
Good Players by Their Final Amateur Status
The first demographic criterion we’ll consider in this three-part series is the last level at which a every good major-leaguer played as an amateur before joining affiliated baseball. For international players, that includes both the July 2nd-types from the Dominican and Venezuela and also high-profile free agents from Cuba and Japan (who obviously played as professional). There’s few enough of the latter group, however, that it doesn’t skew the numbers terribly.
Here’s all 397 good player-season between 2010 and -14 classified by the relevant player’s final amateur status:
Players signed out of high school and college are represented almost equally; as international free agents, about 10 points less than that. Players signed out of a junior college represent about 10% of good major-league batters. If you are looking at a good player, there’s about one-third of a chance he was drafted out of high school and another one-third chance he attended a four-year college.
Here’s the same thing for the 233 good pitcher-seasons between 2010 and -14:
The ratios are roughly the same. Prep players gain a few points; international and junior-college players lose a couple. I have zero constructive ideas to contribute on what the appropriate margin of error is for this sort of data. Let’s say that four-year and high-school players are represented roughly evenly, with the possibility of some advantage for the latter. If you’re looking at a good pitcher, it’s most likely — among the four possible options — it’s most likely that he was drafted out of high school. But it’s far from a certainty. There are a lot of former collegiate pitchers who’ve recorded good major-league seasons, too.
Now here’s all 630 player-seasons together:
Again, not surprisingly, the number are pretty close between those good players who signed originally out of high school and college. One note about this: a higher percentage of college players have been selected in the first round of the last 10 drafts than high-school players. Not by much, but it’s there. Prep players, though, have produced good seasons with slightly more frequency. That’s maybe not surprising. Because there’s less information available regarding their performance, high-school amateurs typically offer both a higher ceiling and lower floor. I’d guess that college draftees produce 0-3 WAR seasons with more frequency than prep draftees. I don’t know that, but that’s typically the appeal of the college player: more certainty.
Also of note: players signed out of junior colleges have accounted for nearly 10% of all good season over the last five years, but they represent only 2% of all players selected in the last 10 first rounds. Adding in all the international players that are signed each year for first round-type bonuses, and junior-college players have provided an excellent return on investment. More on that to come.
“there are some players who are really special and don’t have to go with the idea that bigger is better.”
By Liz Mullen
Veteran agent Jimmy Gould has not represented a projected first-round NFL draft prospect for 15 years, but he has one now in Louisville wide receiver DeVante Parker.
Gould’s firm, Management One, is representing Parker both on and off the field for this year’s draft.
The last time Gould represented a first-round pick going into the draft was 2000, when he co-represented wide receiver Peter Warrick with Norm Nixon. Warrick was taken No. 4 overall by the Cincinnati Bengals.
Gould, who has been certified to represent NFL players since 1995, also co-represented offensive tackle Andre Smith, who was taken with the No. 6 overall pick, also by the Bengals, in 2009. But he began co-representing Smith with Alvin Keels after Smith was drafted. Gould helped negotiate Smith’s rookie contract with the Bengals after a 30-day holdout.
Gould, who is based out of Cincinnati, is representing Parker, who was ranked as the overall No. 16 prospect by CBS Sports last week. At the NFL combine earlier this month, Parker, who is 6-foot-3 and 209 pounds, ran a 4.45-second 40-yard dash, which is “very good” for his size, CBS Sports senior NFL draft analyst Rob Rang said.
Rang said last week that Parker is a top-20 prospect.
“He should be a top-15 pick, without doubt,” Gould said of Parker, who is the only player Gould is representing in this year’s draft.
Gould has negotiated a shoe deal for Parker with Adidas, as well as card and memorabilia deals for him with Upper Deck, Panini America and Leaf. Gould would not disclose the financial details of the deals. After Parker is drafted, Gould said he would work to develop national and local marketing deals for Parker, depending on which club drafts him.
Parker and his family interviewed other agents, including some prominent agents from major agencies, but clicked with Gould and wanted an agent who could provide more time and a personal touch. Gould spoke last week after spending three days with Parker at the combine. In addition to being an NFL agent, Gould is a private equity investor and holds positions with several companies, including being founder and general partner of private equity firm The Walnut Group and serving on the boards of directors of Build-A-Bear Workshop, Wild Things Gear and Adspace Networks.
Gould said he has represented about 90 players during his 20-year career as an NFL agent, and has been to the combine 18 out of the last 20 years representing players. Many of his players have a connection to the Ohio-Kentucky area, and Gould said he does not spend much time recruiting these days. He represents six current NFL players, including Arizona Cardinals defensive end Frostee Rucker and New Orleans Saints running back and return specialist Travaris Cadet.
Gould said he has been approached over the years about selling his agency, but he enjoys representing a small group of players, as well as running his other business interests. He said Parker’s selection of his agency over other bigger firms proves “there are some players who are really special and don’t have to go with the idea that bigger is better.”
The first player Gould ever signed was the late offensive tackle Korey Stringer, who died in Minnesota Vikings training camp in 2001. Gould negotiated a settlement over his death that included the foundation of the Korey Stringer Institute. Gould serves as an adviser to the institute, which researches the prevention of heat stroke. Stringer’s death “is really the reason I stopped recruiting,” Gould said. “I couldn’t watch football for a while, to be honest with you.”
Jack Leathersich misses a lot of bats. Much to the southpaw’s chagrin, he also misses the strike zone. The 24-year-old Mets prospect has a 15.2 K/9, but also a 4.9 BB/9 over 147 professional relief outings. His Triple-A numbers are even more striking. In 39 games over parts of two seasons, he’s walked an ugly 8.7 per nine.
Leathersich is deceptive and has a nasty slider to go with an above-average fastball, so the potential is there to become a bullpen cog at Citi Field. Why he’s been unable to master his command remains the million-dollar question, and the answer extends beyond the physical.
Earlier this week, I asked Leathersich if there’s a mental component to his strike zone struggles.
“Some of it is mental,” admitted Leathersich. “It’s not so much me being wild as it is not being able to make adjustments during an outing. I need to get over that hump. But I’m not 40 years old – I’m still young – and this could be the year I finally put it all together.”
Pitchers with command issues are sometimes told to stop thinking and just throw the ball. I asked the University of Massachusetts-Lowell product for his opinion on that advice.
“People say that, but at the same time, it’s impossible,” responded Leathersich. “You can’t get on the mound and just stop thinking. It doesn’t work like that. It’s all about controlling what you can control, figuring out the little tweaks, and learning to slow the game back down if it starts to speed up.”
The majority of the lefty’s appearances last year were walk-free, but he was susceptible to the snowball-effect. When he was out of sync, he all too often stayed out of sync.
“I would have great outings where all I threw was strikes, and I’d have terrible outings where I couldn’t find the strike zone,” said Leathersich. “And baseball isn’t like football or hockey where you can go out and just hustle harder. I need to find that happy medium with making adjustments.”
Early in our conversation, Leathersich used the “W” word. I asked if it’s an apt description of what he’s been.
“I don’t believe I’m wild,” answered Leathersich. “Some people might think I’m wild, because of the walks, but I’m not going to stop pitching how I pitch. You have to keep what’s yours. I can’t try to be something I’m not and nip corners, or slow down my velocity and lay it in there. I’ve never pitched like that and I never will. But I do need to do a better job of attacking the zone. I need to figure it out, but I also need to keep my swagger.”
TAKING PAPI'S MONEY...
Well, this certainly doesn't fall under the heading of surprising baseball news:
Big Papi went off during his sit-down with the media today when asked about his feelings on rule changes aimed at improving pace of play, specifically the new rule that hitters must keep one foot in the batter's box between pitches, unless an established exception occurs.
"It seems like every rule goes in the pitcher's favor," Ortiz said in an expletive-filled rant. "After a pitch, you got to stay in the box? One foot? I call that bull%#@$".
Big Papi made it clear he's not stepping out for show.
"When you come out of the box, you're thinking about what the guy is trying to do," Ortiz said. "I'm not walking around just because there are cameras all over the place and I want my buddies back home to see me."
I'll resist the urge to mention Ortiz's apparently boundless arrogance, and instead simply make this point: Baseball does not belong to David Ortiz or his colleagues. Ortiz certainly has a stake in the game, which has become only more true as his union has gained more and more power. But real power rests primarily with the owners and the television networks, both national and (especially) local.
David Schoenfield estimates that if Ortiz utterly ignores the new rules and they're actually enforced (don't hold your breath on that one, by the way), he might wind up getting fined roughly half a million dollars. Which is not much for a guy like him. But it's not much because the owners and the television people have been sucking (almost) every dollar from the fans that's possible, with a significant percentage of those dollars flowing to veterans like David Ortiz.
Look, he's got a good point about the rules favoring the pitchers. If he doesn't like it, he should talk to Tony Clark. Last time I checked, there were more hitters than pitchers (if just barely, these days).
I do wonder what Ortiz thought would happen, if he and his dilatory mates just kept pushing and pushing, and pushing again.
Should McCutchen really get a huge salary bump?
By Travis Sawchik Saturday, Feb. 28, 2015
A lifetime contract for Cutch?
There's an interesting parallel between Tampa Bay third baseman Evan Longoria and Pirates star Andrew McCutchen. First consider Longoria and McCutchen are signed to two of the most club-friendly contracts in the sport. The difference between McCutchen's remaining contract value and his actual wages is staggering:
Actual Proj. Market Year salary WAR value*
2015 $10M 6.7 $40.2M
2016 $13M 6.4 $38.4M
2017 $14M 6.3 $37.8M
2018 $14.5M 6.0 $36.0M
Total $51.5M 25.4 $152.4M
* $6 million per WAR
Source projected WAR: fangraphs.com
Longoria was in the midst of an undervalued contract extension and four years from free agency when he signed another extension with small-market Tampa Bay beginning with his age 27 season in 2013. The deal tacked on eight years and nine figures.
Guess who also is in an undervalued deal and four years from free agency?
Like the Rays with Longoria, should the Pirates use the four years McCutchen is from free agency as leverage and seek another discounted extension?
Last week, Pirates owner Bob Nutting said he would like to see McCutchen in a Pittsburgh uniform for “a long, long time.”
There is a compelling argument not to extend McCutchen. The Pirates already control McCutchen through his prime, through his age 31 season. An extension figures to start at around $22 million to $25 million per year — Jacoby Ellsbury signed a seven-year, $153 million deal last offseason — and in the post-PED era, players begin to decline dramatically after their early 30s. What if McCutchen ages like Ken Griffey Jr. who posted one 2-WAR season after 30?
There's an emotion-based, counterargument that notes McCutchen is perhaps the most important Pirate since Clemente. He is the face of the franchise, an iconic symbol of its rebirth. What is the cost in letting him walk?